Rise of Self-Publishing

In recent years we have seen the book become digitalized. With devices such as Amazon’s Kindle and Barnes and Noble’s Nook, more and more books are offered electronically. Indeed, Amazon claims that they sold three times more ebooks first half of 2010 compared to same period of 2009. While this may be inevitable, there is another trend waiting to happen. As the cost and effort of publishing a book goes down, so does the barrier to publish. We are seeing the rise of self-publishing.

Couple of years ago I contacted a publisher. Since I have written some text for my New Technology course, would this be of interest to any publisher? I got redirected around and finally sent a proposal. I got an answer back that if I would change the focus to include something and exclude something else, there might be a possibility. I never had time to follow this through and gave up. Today, if I wanted to publish a book I can simply upload it to Amazon and make it available to the Kindle.

What Amazon is doing is lowering the barrier of publishing. Anybody can upload their book and offer it for sale. Amazon takes 30% and you get 70% which is the similar model for Apple App Store. 70% is huge if compared to the sorry rate offered by publishers. Of course the publishers perform many useful tasks, pay an advance and promote the work. With the Internet, some of these functions might be done in different ways. Advertisement is few clicks away with Google and can be highly targeted.

Granted we will see lots of rubbish and if this becomes popular, it will be difficult to find anything. However, we might also get brilliant pieces that publishers would not approve. J. K. Rowlings had her first book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, rejected by dosens of publishers. And when she was finally accepted for publication, she was warned not to give up her day job. How many interesting book ideas got killed due to publishers? Self publishing might even create new genres of books. Something we have never seen before.

Many players want to enter the ebook market. Amazon, Apple and Barnes & Noble are all in the game. Now Google wants to enter and started to sell ebooks December 2010, and recently they bought ebook technology company.

As Kranzberg’s law states, technology in neither good or bad. Self publishing ebooks is a disruptive technology. Pubishers will not like this development and they will fight to protect their business model, much like the record companies. They will resist but eventually need to face how the times are changing. Publishing will still provide lots of useful functions but they will eventually have to adapt.

Technology in 2010 – Year in Review

It was the year of the iPad, social networks, Farmville, Android, and Wikileaks

Word cloud created by wordle.net using all the articles on this site in 2010

Social was the term to describe 2010. Social networking, social media, social gaming, social everything. As usual Hollywood moved with the time to release a movie on social networking. The year 2010 was interesting in technology. In January,  I wrote about what interesting things we could see in 2010.

Here is a list of some of the interesting trends for the year.

First, the year 2010 was the year of the tablet device. Apple announced the iPad device in January and generated lots of hype. Many people in the tech industry were very sceptic about this device. Why would people use this? And when the iPad came out, reviews were polarized, some liked it and others saw no use for this type of device. Many people looked at the iPad and while seeing no reason to buy it they still did. Apple sold 2 million iPads in the first 59 days. The verdict is in by now and it is now clear that there was a room in the market for a “third device”. The iPad Effect has changed how software developers create applications, design webs and how we use computers. The iPad has also disrupted netbook and laptop sales. Some 32% of iPad owners say they don’t need a laptop or netbook.

The year was also good for e-readers. In fact, 2010 was the year e-readers and ebook sales took off. Amazon’s Kindle is reported to have sold in 8 million units, and some estimate that Barnes and Noble’s Nook is selling more devices. The companies don’t disclose sales numbers, but it is clear that 2010 was the year the general public adopted e-books. Amazon sells 180 kindle books for every 100 books it sells. E-books are now 25% of Amazon’s revenue. What is interesting is that according to the Association of American Publishers, e-books make up 9% of the total consumer book sales (AAP Reports Publisher Book Sales for August).

2010 was also interesting in mobile phones. This was the year of Android, antennagate and finally Microsoft came out with a good mobile OS. Android is the mobile success of the year. It is outselling the iPhone in the US. Apple released the iPhone 4 but had problems both with lost prototype and the famous antennagate. Steve Jobs comment that people are holding the phone wrong did not help. Nevertheless, the iPhone 4 was successful. Just over the first weekend some 1.7 million phones were sold. Microsoft finally got their mobile OS right and released Windows Phone 7. While the reviews were good, the sales have been slow. Microsoft reported in December that they sold 1.5 million devices since launched, which is less than sales of iPhone 4 just over the weekend.

Facebook added its 500 millionth member during the year. The network is so powerful that half of Facebook users log onto it everyday. More than 35 million update their statuses at least once a day. The average user spends 55 minutes per day on Facebook and has 130 friends (The Facebook Blog, July 2010). The company generated 2 billion dollars in revenues. No surprise that Time magazine chose Mark Elliot Zuckerberg as the person of the year.

Facebook has created a platform for social games. 2010 was the year of Farmville. This social game, developed by Zynga, attracted some 80 million players when it peaked, causing it to become one of the most played games in 2010.

The year 2010 was also a year the Internet started to change. The network we once knew is now gone. As content owners and rights-holders fight to restrict access to their content using outdated laws and ignorant politicians, the network is geting fragmented. Indeed, the fragmentation period of the Internet has begun.

Wikileaks did not did not help. The release of the US diplomatic cables brought on criticism from many politicians. It was also the first time that the network is used in war with DDOS attacks.

One interesting trend was the living room, the battle for the TV. Apple released a new version of Apple TV, Google released Android powered Google TV, Boxee and Roku continued to improve their products. We still have a lot of improvement in the TV experience as the major networks particularly in the US, are reluctant to open their closed wall garden.

So how did I do on my predictions from a year ago? I talked about the cloud and APIs. Sure, they were important but are becoming more ubiqutues and thus did not generate much hype during the year. I predicted that content management would be important. However, it was not so much, except for books. I got that one right. Home entertainment boxes came as predicted with both Apple and Google releasing their TV offerings. We still have to wait for the impact on these. Tablets and e-readers I got but that was easy. I predicted that augmented reality would be important, but it was not. I also predicted significant improvements in battery technology. Fail there. Overall, not bad, maybe enough to predict for 2011.

Trying to cope with data overload

As data grows we need better relationship with software

First you can handle things. You don’t get that much email. But as the emails increases the obvious response is the categorize them into folders. Most email programs have folders. This works fine for awhile and you can now see all your emails about a specific subject in a single folder. Then the folders get out of control and you can’t find anything anymore. Then comes the search. Gmail took the search approach. Don’t use folders, just search. Eventually even the search gets out of control, and the results are not useful. Then personalization and behavioral techniques come into play. The only way to cope with data overload is to get some intelligence into the software we use, some sort of an intimate relationship.

One example of this is what Google did with gmail: priority email. The priority email is an attempt to cope with increasing load of email. By learning from your behavior, gmail learns what emails you find most useful. Things that you just delete and never respond to, must be less important than items you respond to. This is some sort of  a reverse spam filtering, a widely know and used technology.

This step in the evolution of email is very similar to the general response of information overload. When the web was beginning you could pretty much have good overview of  important web pages. As new pages came along it became increasingly difficult to keep up with what was available. Yahoo! was an answer to that. Categorization of web pages into directories, very similar as email folders. But the Yahoo! became cluttered and complicated. So search became important with Altavista and other early engines. Google became popular by applying some general ranking to search results making the important things appear first. As search increases, personalized and behavioral search becomes important.

Google has already implemented some logic to searchers. When a colleague of mine at work was trying different searches for his SEO work, he found an article by myself popped up on first page. I was of course pleased to hear this, happy to become an important figure in the world of technology. However, when he repeated the search in another country, my brilliant input was nowhere to be found. Either Google is very unstable and changes quickly or the fact that being in another country has some relevance. Whatever the logic used, it is clear that search companies must try to find intelligent ways to rank results. And the obvious result is to have the search engine develop an understanding of the user.

Communication is a killer business and always has been. As data increases, technology innovations that solve the overload will emerge. Data analysis software will become real-time, trying to interpret messages and their relevance. Using simple statistics is not enough, the intelligence has to learn the behavior of the user. We are seeing the rise of user – software relationships.